One time, many years ago, in another state, I was a yoga student at a crowded studio. There was a teacher there everyone loved. She was bubbly and sweet and had studied with one of the best known and respected teachers in India. She knew her anatomy, knew her stuff.
I do not think she was a trauma-informed yoga teacher though.
Teachers receiving training to volunteer for Connection Coalition (working with youth in crises) and Connected Warriors (working with veterans), are versed in giving students choices and never taking their power away from them.
Back to that long ago class. I was at my limit in a pose. I wasn’t being a “quitter.” My intuition, my inner guidance told me enough. This teacher came by and tried to physically force me deeper (not brutally, but physically) into the pose. Trying to discourage her I shook my head and whispered, “I can’t.” She ignored me and moved my leg further than what I felt comfortable or safe with.
She smiled, victorious! Her bubbly personality shining out through her eyes, thinking she’d done something amazing, showing me I could go further than I ever imagined!
“Except maybe you can!” she said. Like a cheerleader.
My heart sank. I did not share in her victory. I felt completely disempowered. I felt like it had become “her” pose, not mine. I wasn’t a teacher yet and didn’t know anything about trauma informed yoga, but I felt a real sense of despair and had to swallow a lump in my throat. I didn’t understand why I felt so angry?
Help isn’t help when we railroad over peoples’ choices. Help isn’t help when it isn’t invited in. Help isn’t help when it makes a person feel smaller rather than empowered.
I’ve made this mistake countless times myself. Not as a yoga teacher, (I hope) but as a human. As an adult child of an alcoholic, with co-dependent “helper” tendencies, it has taken me a long time to learn that I should ask permission before charging in with all my awesome “help” and helpful ideas.
And as a soul on the path, I work on forgiving those who have, with the very best of intentions, inadvertently not “helped” me.